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Red Hawks score in 10th inning to beat Smith Academy, 8-7

  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #15 Ryan Hoar, gets the Smith runner #7 Christian Smiarowski at 2nd as he tries to turn a double play in the top of the 5th at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #15 Ryan Hoar, gets the Smith runner #7 Christian Smiarowski at 2nd as he tries to turn a double play in the top of the 5th at Lorden Field.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #2 Niko Ames, makes the play and fires the ball to 1st to get the runner in the top of the 4th at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #2 Niko Ames, makes the play and fires the ball to 1st to get the runner in the top of the 4th at Lorden Field.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, starts his delivery to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, starts his delivery to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, launches the ball to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, launches the ball to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #15 Ryan Hoar, gets the Smith runner #7 Christian Smiarowski at 2nd as he tries to turn a double play in the top of the 5th at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's #2 Niko Ames, makes the play and fires the ball to 1st to get the runner in the top of the 4th at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, starts his delivery to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Lorden Field UMass 6/9/13. Frontier's pitcher #18 Sam Tilona, launches the ball to the plate in the top of the 6th inning at Lorden Field.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

AMHERST — Niko Ames gained some personal redemption Sunday afternoon and in the process helped his Frontier Regional School baseball team regain the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament title.

After leaving the bases loaded in the seventh inning, the junior doubled to lead off the bottom of the 10th and later scored the winning run as the Red Hawks defeated Smith Academy, 8-7 in 10 innings, at Earl Lorden Field at the University of Massachusetts.

“I knew I had to put the team in a position to win the game, especially after my previous at-bat,” Ames said. “I wanted to get on base any way I could and I was so happy after that double. And I’m ecstatic we were able to pull it off.”

With one out and Ames on third, senior Matt Byrne hit his second sacrifice fly of the game to clinch the program’s first sectional championship since 2008.

“I swung at the first pitch, and I’m not even sure if it was a strike,” Byrne said. “But we practice getting the ball into the outfield in that situation, and that was my only goal. Thankfully, I hit it far enough.”

Byrne enjoyed a 2-for-3 afternoon and scored a run after Frontier coach Chuck Holt moved him up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

“These guys are very mentally tough, so moving the lineup around doesn’t throw them off at all,” Holt said.

No. 3 seed Frontier (18-6) advanced to the Division III state semifinals against Central Mass. champion Hopedale High School (20-3) at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Tivnan Field in Worcester.

“It’s a tremendous feeling, and I’m so lucky to be in this position,” Holt said. “This game was both exciting and exhausting. But what a great day. I’d rather be doing this than just about anything.”

Ames (two runs) went 3-for-6 on the day, including an RBI single in the fourth. Ryan Hoar, Sam Tillona, Jared Allis and Sean Doyle each drove in a run for the Red Hawks, while Eddie Tsai scored twice.

“Part of me was a little scared, but with all the chances we had, I knew at some point we’d push one across,” Ames said. “This game was such an emotional rollercoaster, and we hadn’t had many close games this season.”

Senior third baseman Rylan Baronas did not have had a hit, but his perfect sacrifice bunt moved Ames to third and set up Byrne’s heroics.

“To have a leadoff double was huge, and to have such a good baserunner as Niko was even better,” Holt said. “Then Rylan, who’s been arguably our best hitter this season, sacrifices him over, which just shows everyone’s willingness to put team over stats.”

The No. 5-seeded Falcons (20-4) erased deficits of 3-0 and 7-2 with a five-run fifth inning, sparked by run-scoring hits from Mike Molloy and Keith Natale.

“I think everyone in our locker room thought we could get to this game,” Smith coach Jeff Pluta said. “Even though we didn’t have many older kids, they knew we had something special just a few weeks into practice. So I’m not at all surprised we got to this point. These guys love baseball, they come every day to work, and they have a lot of fun together.”

Tillona came on in relief of Frontier starter Peter Watroba with one down in the fifth. The senior lefty allowed an inherited runner and one of his own to score, then posted five scoreless and hitless frames, which allowed Frontier numerous opportunities to win.

“We’re a senior-based team and we’ve been to this point before,” Tillona said. “I knew our guys would get it done if I did my job. This is definitely redemption for us after (losing in the final) last year.”

However, Smith Academy pulled off a pair of great escapes. In the seventh, starting pitcher David Longstreeth (seven-plus innings, six strikeouts) was one ball from walking in the winning run. Down 3-0 in the count, the sophomore right-hander came roaring back with three straight strikes against Ames to end the inning.

“I thought David did a nice job of calming down after giving up seven runs,” Pluta said. “He settled back in, but we had him on a pitch count, so we had to lift him.”

The play of the day occurred in the eighth, after three walks loaded the bases for Frontier again. With one down, Brandon Bryant lifted a fly ball to center. Following the catch, Smith’s Kevin Banas unleashed a perfect throw to the plate to nail Baronas.

“We moved Kevin from shortstop to center because we already have a pretty good shortstop” in Christian Smiarowski, Pluta said. “As (Banas) showed on that play, he’s got a tremendous arm.”

Natale went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored for the Falcons. Molloy (two runs, RBI) and Jojo Afflitto (RBI, run) added two hits apiece.

“I give a ton of credit to Smith Academy,” Holt said. “What a gritty, gutsy team they have. It was a great comeback by them, being down five that late in the game in this atmosphere. They have tremendous character, so I’m really proud of my boys to beat them.”

Frontier ace Watroba pitched well through four innings but ran into major trouble in the fifth. He gave up six runs, four earned, on 10 hits with a pair of strikeouts.

The teams combined to commit six errors on the day, leading to three unearned runs.

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